Distraction in the operating room poses a serious threat to patients

When many people in Rogersville consent to undergo surgery, they assume that the medical professionals performing the procedure will give their full attention and effort to the task. Unfortunately, reports indicate that it's not unheard of for surgeons and other professionals to become distracted with smartphones, tablets and similar devices during medical procedures. This can greatly increase the risk of preventable surgical errors and catastrophic outcomes for patients.

Alarming attitudes

The Washington Post explains that medical professionals frequently use cell phones and other electronic devices for legitimate purposes during medical procedures. These tasks include looking up information, contacting other medical professionals and making notes. However, the presence of these devices also gives medical professionals an opportunity to engage in purely personal activities, from browsing social media to shopping online.

Unfortunately, research into distracted doctoring suggests that many medical professionals take advantage of this opportunity. For example, according to Pacific Standard Magazine, one study found that over half of perfusionists have diverted attention from operating bypass machines during heart surgery to use their phones for personal purposes. Alarmingly, just 52 percent of these professionals stated that they thought texting during surgery was dangerous. Only 42 percent believed that using a cell phone for any purpose during surgery was unconditionally unsafe.

Consequences of inattention

Despite what some medical professionals apparently believe, anecdotal evidence shows that this kind of distraction can have devastating consequences. In one disturbing case, a neurosurgeon made over 10 phone calls while performing an operation. Tragically, the patient became paralyzed as a result of errors made during the surgery. This catastrophic personal injury might have been avoided if the surgeon had given the procedure greater attention.

According to The Washington Post, one report from the non-profit ECRI Institute assessed the most dangerous technology-related risks that medical patients face today. Cellphone distraction was cited as one of the leading ten risks. This finding, which was produced in 2012, might not even reflect the level of distraction that medical professionals exhibit now.

Unfortunately, despite the dangers of distracted doctoring, addressing this issue may prove difficult because most technology does have legitimate uses in the operating room. Many hospitals lack rules limiting the use of cell phones and other electronic devices, and there aren't currently industry-wide standards about limiting or tracking the use of these devices. This may leave patients exposed to a substantial risk of surgical errors and other mistakes that are entirely unnecessary.

Establishing negligence

When doctors in Tennessee make errors while undertaking unnecessary actions that could foreseeably endanger patients, their victims may have legal recourse. Surgical error victims may be entitled to compensation if they can prove they suffered injuries because a medical professional breached the professional standard of care. The decision to place calls, text, browse the Internet or engage in other distractions during a medical procedure may constitute such a breach.

In Tennessee, medical malpractice victims who intend to make legal claims must do so within three years of the surgery or one year of discovering the injury. Given these short deadlines, victims may benefit from consulting with a malpractice attorney for guidance during the claim process.